A Scottish firm that plans to turn disused mines into renewable energy generation plants has won UK Government backing in a success which underlines the potential of the technology it has developed amid the drive to slash emissions.

Gravitricity has been awarded around £1m official funding under a programme that is intended to tackle one of the key challenges that must be addressed if the UK is to make the most of renewable energy.

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With the output of facilities such as windfarms and solar energy plants dependent on weather conditions there is an urgent need to develop effective ways of storing the power they generate for use when required.

Gravitricity has devised a way of harnessing gravity to generate electricity by allowing huge weights to be lowered down shafts.

HeraldScotland: Picture: GravitricityPicture: Gravitricity

The weights can be returned to position using electricity generated from renewable sources at times when there is low demand for energy from other users.

This allows the system to provide a way of storing that energy so that it can be released in times of high demand.

After running a successful demonstration project at Leith docks in Edinburgh last year Gravitricity has won official support for a plan which could see the technology used in England on a bigger scale.

It won £0.9m funding under the Longer Duration Energy Storage programme to support work on a project to demonstrate the feasibility of using multiple weights to generate electricity, which it will run this year. The Leith demonstration project featured two weights.

Gravitricity said it will work with partners to secure the planning consents required to develop and build a multi-weight gravity energy store at a grid-connected site in northern England.

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Managing director Charlie Blair held out the prospect that the project could pave the way to the development of a system that could be deployed in significant numbers.

“Finding low-cost, long-life ways to store renewable power will be crucial in the world’s journey to net zero,” he said.

“Our multi weight concept has been proven by our Leith demonstrator where two 25 tonne weights were configured to run independently, delivering smooth continuous output when lowered one after the other.”

Mr Blair added: “We were able to demonstrate a roundtrip efficiency of more than 80 percent and the ability to ramp up to full import or export power in less than a second.”

He predicted the work that will be completed in England will “pave the way to custom projects which can be built wherever they are required”.

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Gravitricity is working on a plan to develop a single weight project in a disused mine shaft in mainland Europe, which is expected to start operating this year.

It won European Investment Bank support for the project and has a range of sites under consideration.

HeraldScotland: Sunamp chief executive Andrew BissellSunamp chief executive Andrew Bissell

Another Scottish specialist also won support under the Longer Duration Energy Storage programme.

East Lothian-based Sunamp was awarded around £150,000 funding to support work on a larger version of the battery it has developed, which can be used to store energy from renewable sources. The battery is made using a phase change material similar to the gel in hand warmers.

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Chief executive Andrew Bissell said: “This funding will accelerate how we can further enhance thermal storage duration, working with wind energy from the grid and solar PV in homes, to provide heat and water during extended intervals of low renewables generation.”

Mr Bissell started developing Sunamp in 2005, after the Voxar medical imaging business he span out of the University of Edinburgh was sold to Belgium’s Barco for £23m. Gravitricity was formed in 2012 by clean energy specialists Martin Wright and Peter Fraenkel.